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Anand: Creative Change Will Follow Thailand's Crisis

Anand: Creative Change Will Follow Thailand's Crisis

BANGKOK, Thailand-Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun appealed to his country's

military, economic, and political elite to build on the "inner strength"

of Thai-land's 800-year-old tradition in facing changes brought on by increased democracy,

decentralization, and the narrowing of gaps in income and education.

"The test of a society is how it comes out of a crisis," Anand told

members of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand on July 1.

"The painful events of May have forced us to realize the sense of urgency to

correct the structural flaws in our society, in our military establishment, in our

political system, and in our bureaucratic framework."

Anand was appointed interim prime minister on June 10, following the deaths and

injuries of hundreds of protesters during the Thai military's crackdown on pro-democracy

demonstrations in May. He will oversee new elections slated for Sept. 13.

As a result of the May "tragedy," Anand said, Thailand may now be better

placed to build stability, development and "true democracy." He advocated

that Thailand move toward filling provincial, district, and village-level positions

through democratic processes, and address educational and economic disparities on

a national level to bring about a true decentralization in Thai society.

Anand's previous 13-month caretaker government following a coup in February 1991

was criticized for focusing on middle-class concerns and giving inadequate attention

to the problems of the rural poor.

Anand's address reflected his popular mandate to set things on the right course.

But his response to specific questions left hanging basic issues regarding the events

of May 17-20, causing some observers to question his government's ability to identify

and deal with military and political personnel who may have been responsible for

the May debacle.

Questioned regarding the status of military officials under investigation in relation

to the May events, Anand said he was following Thai tradition in leaving them in

place. He similarly avoided expressing an opinion on the fate of the 1,000 people

still listed as missing following the May shootings.

Anand also left unanswered the question as to whether his government is merely

providing a breathing space before Thailand's return to "business as usual."

Have enough crises taken place, has enough awareness come about-both among those

who hold and wield military and economic power, and among those who do not-to develop

a stable society and what Anand calls a "true democracy?" This is the question

underlying Anand's call to action-whether or not the time has come for significant

change in Thai policy.

Lance Woodruff, a photo-journalist living in Bangkok, Thailand, is public information

officer for the Mekong Secretariat.

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